Real estate attorneys have been seeing it happen more often than not these days. Imagine renting a summer home for your family and friends over the summer and upon arrival finding that the place is not what you expected and even worse, finding the homeowners there declaring that they never rented to anyone. What happened to the good old fashioned neighborhood travel agencies agents? They used to do everything for you and they were responsible for their bookings. Now everything is done on the Internet which is totally unregulated. It is a major problem.
In the age of the Internet, booking a vacation is easier than ever. It is also easier than ever for con artists to rip you off. Whether it is that beach house you crave or the nice apartment in a big city, this summer lots of families will be ditching the hotels looking for homes and apartments for short term rentals through websites like Airbnb and VRBO. There are other sites like Flipkey or HomeAway. Sometimes the listings are not what they seem. Fake advertisements are everywhere and if that deal seems unbelievably cheap, it probably doesn’t even exist.
Homeowners are having problems finding their home listed on line for rent and strangers showing up randomly at the house. It has happened to HomeAway.Com but they claim that less than one in 10,000 listings are fake. Well, no one wants to fall victim to that one fake listing. That same fake listing could be listed on other web sites with other families falling victim to the same scam. It is virtually impossible to find the scammers. Chris Elliott is a travel consultant who says that most people are scammed for a couple of thousand dollars to as much as $10,000. As far as scams go, this is an epidemic.
Sometimes a so called great deal can arrive right in your inbox. There is one rental site VRBO that will write to you right on your wall and promise you a great deal. If it is a overseas deal, all you have to do is wire them the money. You could send the money and find that the website just disappears and you are out thousands of dollars. Quite often they will say as soon as we receive your deposit, we will send you further details about your property rental, and soon you receive nothing.
How it works is that a scammer intercepts e-mail addresses, and contacts people directly. In many cases offering a real property for rent without the homeowner ever even knowing it. You give the scammer a down payment and they are gone with your money without a trace of finding them. There are things you can do to protect yourself. It is called homework.
1. 1. NEVER EVER WIRE MONEY. Use a credit card or pay-pal instead. We can trace who cashed that money.
2. 2. VERIFY THE RENTAL AGREEMENT. Find out who is on the other end of the rental agreement. Simply by calling most legitimate listings will provide you with a phone number.
3. 3. USE SECURE RENTAL WEBSITES. Try to use in house systems that are more secure. Don’t answer anything that comes out of unusual channels.
4. 4. REVERSE GOOGLE SEARCH. Take the image of that rental and run it through Google Images and if it comes up on multiple sites, well, be careful.
Hundreds of thousands of people use rental sites every day. You do not want to be the one with a problem. Be careful and do some research. Have a great vacation at a nice place.